Judge Josh Rode has an unnatural fixation with his bald spot.
She's sweet sixteen and she loves her daddy, and she'll slaughter you if you love him too.
The Code Red release of 1983's Julie Darling is a tale of two diametrically opposed viewpoints. One the one hand, you have the aging star who is looking back fondly on the prime years of her life; on the other, you have the cynical younger woman who can't believe she ever allowed herself to be in such a horrible situation.
I'm not talking about the plot of the actual film. That has to do with a girl with an unnaturally strong fixation on her father who can't stand the thought of anyone else being the focus of his attention and starts taking steps to keep that from happening, but frankly, the movie is the least interesting part of this release. The real fun is in the dueling commentary tracks, one by B-movie star Sybil Danning (Chained Heat) and the other by Isabelle Mejias (Unfinished Business).
Lest you think that I'm making more of this duel identity approach than is warranted, allow me to present exhibit A: the film begins with short introductions from Danning and Mejias, setting the stage for the real point of this release.
"You're about to watch Julie Darling. Have fun. And don't get too scared," says Danning with a quirk of her eyebrow.
"If you really have nothing better to do for the next two hours, then go ahead and watch Julie Darling," advises Mejias. "But only if you really have nothing better to do."
In both her interview and her commentary, Danning talks about herself. Some of that isn't her fault; both interviewers are clearly huge fans of her work and gush all over her at every opportunity. Still, she spends little time talking about the film at hand, even when her scenes start showing. If you're a "women in prisons" fan, you've probably seen plenty of Danning before, and you get to see most of her in Julie Darling too. That being said, if that's your interest in this film, look elsewhere; that scene is interrupted by a very disturbing incest sequence. If you're really interested in hearing her talk about all the films she's ever been a part of, on the other hand, this film is for you.
Both Mejias's interview and commentary track are devoted to panning the film. She dishes on the elitist attitude of stars Danning and Anthony Franciosa (A Hatfull of Rain) and points out the moments when Franciosa is reading his lines. The wardrobe and makeup artists get bashed repeatedly for her horrid outfits and the fact that her hairstyle is different in nearly every scene. Even director Paul Nicholas is not exempt from her scorn: "He's walking around like he's this big-shot artist and, look at this crap! Look at the composition! My God! It's like, 'Yeah, I'm a director.' Well, yeah. My five-year-old can do this too."
By itself, this film is terrible. Mejias does a much better job than I ever could at pointing out its flaws, but I'll do my best. The 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer is grainy and dark and has its share of dirt and scratches, and the voice syncing is off throughout most of the film, making everyone look like they've been dubbed. The sound is adequate at best, but the overly dramatic music pops up at inopportune moments. The acting leaves a lot to be desired as well. Franciosa plays the father as a sort of wooden Ward Cleaver, betraying no emotion whatsoever throughout. Danning digs a little deeper, and fares reasonably well. Mejias points out her own acting foibles, but in short; she, her friend, and the little boy do a fine job of showing why I generally dislike child actors.
The extras, of course, are where this release shines, because there is something for everyone. If you're a huge Sybil Danning fan, you get over two hours of listening to her talk about herself, her movies, her co-stars, and everything else related to her. If you're a fan of biting sarcasm, Mejias gives you a one-woman presentation worthy of anything presented by Mystery Science Theater 3000. It alone is worth the price of the DVD.
The film itself is guilty, but Isabelle is free on appeal and Sybil is
released to the custody of her fans.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Code Red
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